Thursday, 1 March 2012

Migration - The Last week in February


Great Spotted Cuckoos are parasites. To be more specific they parasitise the nests of the Common Magpie, specialising in what is known as brood parasitism. Unlike the Common Cuckoo that may choose a variety of species nests to deposit her own eggs, the Great Spotted Cuckoo selects only the Common Magpie to rear it's chicks. The cuckoo chicks don't expel the magpies young from the nest as in the case with Common Cuckoos and both species are raised together by the host.
Studies proved that on average Great Spotted Cuckoo eggs have a very good chance of being reared successfully whilst in the nest with the magpie chicks

Reference: Juan José Soler. Manuel Soler. Anders Pape Møller & Juan Gabriel Martínez. Springer-Verlag 1995


In order not to get caught in the magpies nest and receive injury from this stronger and very aggressive bird, the cuckoos work together creating distractions around the magpies territory, getting closer to their nests blatantly advertising their presence by calling, then being pursued by the alarmed Magpies. Both birds seem to have the ability to work together in teams and the larger the mapies nest, the more attractive it is to parasitise. This is probably so due to the fact that the cuckoo can be undetected whilst inside laying her eggs, although other factors like greater space for more eggs/chicks would come into consideration. They can lay up to three eggs in the magpies nest but research suggests that on average they lay two. Great Spotted Cuckoos have the ability to lay eggs extremely quickly, so they can be in and out of the magpies nest fairly rapidly.

Flying low and screaming around the magpies territory certainly does get everyones attention!

Posing

Flying

Looking

Peering

more flying

more looking

more peering

ah, this one had a staring competition with me. He won!

Peek-a-boo

Ah, yes, This pair had just finished mating and I just missed the bit where he lit up a cigarette...


Some other news

Golden Plover flocks are now getting smaller as birds move northwards

Golden Plover

We had a break of Marsh Harrier sightings then all of a sudden hundreds crossed The Strait last week. Marsh Harriers, Hen Harriers Egyptian Vultures are still arriving with thousands of Black Kites.
A few Booted Eagles, Red Kites and a small group of twenty Short-toed Eagles came in last Monday

Apart from Marsh Harriers we've had flocks of Black-tailed Godwits, Sanderlings, Dunlin, Black-winged Stilts, Pied Avocets, Little Stints and one or two Temminck's Stint and a few Ruff. There was also a huge flock of Glossy Ibis coming along the coast near Bolonia the other day, probably around one hundred birds. Spoonbills, Osprey, Greater Flamingoes, Squacco Herons and thousands of Mallards, although there were some Teal, Gadwall and Garganey with them. A few Feruginous Duck have also come across from Morocco

We have had two Nightingales this week which is early for this species. Last year one was here at the end of January which was pretty much a record for me. Some birders have suggested that they may even winter here some years but it may be due to illness or injury that such sightings can be better explained.

We had a lovely Redwing in the garden three days ago. These lovely little Thrushes winter in Morocco and start crossing The Strait around this time. Ring Ouzels should also be returning soon

The first of the Pallid Swifts crossed over into Europe a few days back and we sat in the garden yesterday afternoon watching them feed over our house and the meadow behind us. Above the swifts came a high stream of Black Kites in an almost non-stop flight that lasted an hour. Hundreds passed high over our heads as wintering Crag Martins and newly arrived Barn Swallows jinked through the garden. Chiffchaffs, Robins and Serins were flitting around us as we watched, smiled and had a beer in the warm sun









Male Hen Harrier passes Barbate heading north
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